Central Macedonia is a region in northern Greece that encompasses the ancient kingdom of Macedonia, the birthplace of Alexander the Great and his father Philip II. The region has a rich and diverse cultural and historical heritage that spans from the prehistoric times to the present day. In this blog post, we will explore some of the most notable aspects of this heritage, such as the archaeological sites, the monuments, the traditions, the cuisine and the natural beauty of Central Macedonia.
Central Macedonia is home to four UNESCO World Heritage sites that testify to its ancient glory and significance. These are:
- Archaeological Site of Aigai (modern name Vergina): This was one of the ancient capitals of the Macedonian kingdom, where Philip II was assassinated and buried in a lavish tomb. The site also contains other royal tombs, a palace, a theater and a museum that displays the famous golden larnax with the star symbol of the Macedonian dynasty.
- Archaeological Site of Pella: This was another capital of the Macedonian kingdom, where Alexander the Great was born and raised. The site features impressive remains of a large urban complex, with streets, houses, public buildings, mosaics and sculptures.
- Archaeological Site of Philippi: This was a strategic city founded by Philip II in the 4th century BC, near the site of his victory over the Thracians. The city later became an important Roman colony, where Paul the Apostle preached and founded the first Christian community in Europe. The site includes ruins of a theater, a forum, a basilica, an acropolis and a prison.
- Monuments of Thessaloniki: This is the second-largest city in Greece and the capital of Central Macedonia. It was founded in 315 BC by Cassander, who named it after his wife, a half-sister of Alexander the Great. The city flourished under Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman rule, and became a melting pot of cultures and religions. The monuments of Thessaloniki reflect its rich history and include a Roman arch, a rotunda, several churches, a citadel, a mosque and a hamam.
Besides the UNESCO sites, Central Macedonia has many other monuments that showcase its cultural and historical diversity. Some examples are:
- Petralona Cave: This is a natural wonder that contains stunning stalactites and stalagmites, as well as fossils of animals and plants. The cave is also famous for being the place where the skull of a prehistoric human, known as Archanthropus europaeus petraloniensis, was discovered in 1960.
- Monastery of Saint John the Theologian: This is a Byzantine monastery located on the slopes of Mount Vermio, near the town of Naoussa. It was founded in the 11th century by monks who came from Mount Athos. The monastery is renowned for its frescoes, its icons and its library.
- Museum of the Royal Tombs of Aigai: This is a modern museum that houses the treasures found in the royal tombs of Vergina. The museum is designed to resemble an underground burial complex, with dim lighting and atmospheric music. The exhibits include gold jewelry, weapons, armor, pottery, coins and paintings.
- Aristotle University Museum: This is a museum that showcases the history and achievements of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, which is one of the oldest and largest universities in Greece. The museum displays documents, photographs, books, medals and memorabilia related to the academic and social life of the university.
Central Macedonia is a region with a strong sense of identity and tradition, especially in the rural areas. Some of the most characteristic traditions are:
- Naoussa Carnival: This is a colorful and lively carnival that takes place every year in the town of Naoussa, before the Lent period. The carnival features masked dancers, called genitsari and boules, who perform acrobatic moves and play musical instruments. The carnival also includes parades, concerts, parties and theatrical performances.
- Dionysia Festival: This is a cultural festival that celebrates the ancient god of wine and theater, Dionysus. The festival is held every summer in the ancient theater of Dion, near Mount Olympus. The festival offers a variety of events, such as ancient drama, modern theater, music, dance, poetry and art exhibitions.
- Siatista Fur Festival: This is a unique festival that showcases the art and craft of fur making, which is a traditional occupation in the town of Siatista. The festival is organized every winter by the local fur association and features exhibitions, workshops, competitions and fashion shows.
- Kastoria Ragoutsaria: This is another carnival that takes place every year in the town of Kastoria, after the New Year. The carnival involves people wearing masks and costumes made of animal skins, horns and bells, called ragoutsaria. The ragoutsaria roam the streets, playing music, dancing and teasing the spectators.
Central Macedonia has a rich and varied cuisine that reflects its geographical location and its multicultural influences. The cuisine is based on fresh and seasonal ingredients, such as vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy products, meat, fish and seafood. Some of the most typical dishes are:
- Bougatsa: This is a pastry that consists of thin layers of phyllo dough filled with cheese, cream or minced meat. It is usually sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon and eaten for breakfast or as a snack.
- Trigona Panoramatos: This is a dessert that consists of triangular-shaped pastries filled with cream and dipped in syrup. It is a specialty of the Panorama district in Thessaloniki.
- Giouvetsi: This is a casserole dish that consists of meat (usually lamb or beef) cooked with orzo pasta in a tomato sauce. It is often flavored with herbs, cheese and cinnamon.
- Pites: These are pies that are made with various fillings, such as cheese, spinach, leek, pumpkin or mushroom. They can be round or rectangular, open or closed, baked or fried.
Central Macedonia is blessed with a stunning natural beauty that offers many opportunities for outdoor activities and relaxation. The region has a diverse landscape that includes mountains, lakes, rivers, forests, plains and coasts. Some of the most beautiful places are:
- Lake Kerkini: This is an artificial lake that was created in 1932 by damming the Strymon river. The lake is a wetland of international importance, as it hosts more than 300 species of birds, as well as mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish. The lake is ideal for birdwatching, boating, fishing and hiking.
- Mount Olympus: